German filmmaker Maran Ade’s awards darling Toni Erdmann is so appealing and quirky and funny that its nearly three hour length feels like *that*. Sandra Hüller plays a lonely business executive stalked by an irritating and yet somehow amusing man who changes his appearance with disguises and shows up at the worst times. Turns out its her father. He is trying desperately to reconnect with her as she is so distracted from life by her important job. His efforts are pathetic and often hilarious, he even sits in with her at a board meeting because no one bothers to ask who he is and she’s too ashamed to admit she knows him. It soon becomes clear how right he is about her as she begins to see it to and fall apart. Huller bravely plays a twenty minute nude scene that’s touching and funny, disarming her party guests who join her. That’s just one of many highly entertaining sequences in this witty, wry and engaging comedy. It has emotional elements and sends a clear message to those of us who are too busy.
The recent video of the star German Shepard being forced into turbulent waters while shooting A Dog’s Purpose has been discredited by the Humane Society, the producers, crew members and star Dennis Quaid. So forget that. It’s not a film to be written off in these dark times, trust me. It tells the “tail” of puppy taken from its family and euthanized after only having had the chance to play, eat and dig. Moments later he comes back as a grown dog who finds himself a boy named Ethan with whom he spends a joyous lifetime. He dies of old age surrounded by his beloved human family. He then comes back as a she, a trained police dog working for the Chicago K9 unit. She is shot by a kidnapper and comes back as…. And so on through multiple life and death chapters over a thirty year period. The dog is indeed on a mission to find the meaning of his / her life, the purpose. Yes its sweet, dramatic, emotional and manipulative stuff from animal lover Lasse Hallström. Yes it is a shameless tearjerker and catnip for dog lovers. I am a cat person and I don’t often cry at movies but this one got me. And I feel better for it.
Matthew McConaughey stars in Gold as a failed businessman and family man who thinks he may have discovered gold in Thailand. At least that’s what he’s telling people. It’s based on a real life story and may have been shaped in part by the facts of the Canadian Barrick gold scandal. Director Stephen Gaghan lets Matthew play a typical Matthew character, rebellious, brash, over-confident and a fast talker who earns the trust of drug cartels and badgers investors so he can locate and dig out the gold. His adventures are global and dangerous; he takes unimaginable risks in the jungle, in the boardroom and in his home. Bryce Dallas Howard plays his stay-at-home-and-fret wife horrified at the gambles he takes and the threat to her family’s future. He’s powerless not take risks, he’s addicted to living on the edge. And you won’t be prepared for the ending. Oddly this is McConaughey’s third film about gold.
Michael Fassbender never ceases to amaze with the range of the roles and characters he tackles. Trespass Against Us is the story of Irish “travelers” living illegally in a farm field outside London. Brendan Gleeson plays the fearsome patriarch of an extended family and hangers living in caravans, deeply into criminal activity. Fassbender is his married son with children and next-in-line to the role of gang leadership. Thing is, he wants better for his life and for his children, but it’s hard to pull out of a generational cycle of poverty, and violence. And he unwittingly trains his children to abandon school, despite his dreams for them. The children’s mother (Lynsey Marshall) tries to get them to school, but it doesn’t work out. It’s a horrifying scenario but context is given that the hopelessness of their situation can be broken if there is the will. The question is, can you really?
Brigitte Berman’s marvellously entertaining documentary on Gordon Pinsent, Canadian icon, must not be missed. The River of My Dreams: A portrait of Gordon Pinsent follows his remarkable career, personal history, adoration of his late wife Charmion King and his international journey as an actor and gifted painter. And what a storyteller! His home spun, wickedly funny yarns about things that happened to him starting as an imaginative, rebellious boy in Newfoundland through to his current status as an elder statesman of Canadian arts and one of our best loved international stars.
Where the Universe Sings: The Spiritual Journey of Lawren Harris. The founder and leader of the Canadian Group of Seven artists community is gaining ground on the international stage, one hundred years after he picked up a brush for the first time. Steve Martin curated the exhibit The Idea of North (Los Angeles, Boston and Toronto and on to Europe) and Harris’ majestic work Mountain Forms recently sold for a record $11.2M. Harris created the Canadian landscape art tradition through the Group of Seven which in 2017 helps define our country. Peter Raymont and Nancy Lang’s doc follows Harris as an artist, man and radical whose work morphed from urban scenes of Toronto slums to the natural worlds of Algoma, the north shore of Lake Superior, the Rockies, the Arctic and finally his abstract phase of Santa Fe and New Hampshire. This is their third Group of Seven documentary following West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson (2011) and Painted Land: In Search of the Group of Seven (2015).
The multi-award winning animated drama The Red Turtle follows a castaway on a tropical island that is teeming with wildlife. He adapts and survives but finally plans to get away, He builds a bamboo raft and three times he tries to sail away only to have a giant turtle smash it to smithereens each time. He kills it in a rage but is overcome with pangs of conscience. He sits with it in grief, as its shell opens and a woman emerges. They live together on the island for decades, at one with nature and content. We see them in long shots as though we were the birds and beasts of the island. There is a lot of emotion in the film an accomplishment given that there is no dialogue. It’s an admirable film and beautiful and entertaining but you feel the weight of the world in it, a sense of gloom that doesn’t lift. There’s some comic relief in the nosey crabs that won’t leave him alone and there are some scary moments. The animation is top drawer grabbing the details of the island and weather precisely, unromantically. It’s directed by Michael Dudok de Wit in partnership with Studio Ghibli.
Botticelli – Inferno the Captivating Hidden Story of the Painting Inspired by Dante’s Vision of the Underworld the secrets behind Botticelli’s iconic “Map of Hell” painting, one of his smallest works and one that took a decade to paint. Inspired by Dante’s Inferno, it details the Nine Circles of Hell and what we can expect to find there, as sinners, as we make our way to Paradise, circa 1500. The documentary takes us on a journey to find the drawings, sketches and final piece of the puzzle in the Vatican in Rome, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and on to London, Berlin and Scotland, treasure chests of Botticelli’s preparations and sketches for his masterpiece. For theatres and showtimes, please visit www.Cineplex.com/Gallery
One night only, Jan 29th.
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